In 1968 the Berlin Wall was high enough to protect East Berlin's workers and peasants from West Berlin's possible nuclear attacks and from themselves getting ideas, so my father could return with a safe conscience.
It was because of the wall that people from East- and West Germany didn't live together in one house any more, now they were only neighbours. And the higher the wall became between their houses, the more anonymous became life. Adults who had said hello to each other in former times did their own thing now, and the children didn't play together any more, either.
My father didn't like that very much, so he and a couple of young people from the West went to Berlin all the Whitsuntides to meet young people from the East. I started to go with them in 1978. My father prepared us thoroughly for the trips, we worked out strategies for example, so that we wouldn't attract attention on the other side. The conspirational meetings with the counter-revolutionary powers took place in the parish hall of the Samaritan congregation in Berlin-Friedrichshain. Priest Rainer Eppelmann, a very nice and committed person, was the key player.
He had a
of brave and committed young people around him, who dared to wear "Swords
with the class enemy was surprisingly peaceful. Every day we had to pass
the border crossing point "Friedrichstraße" to go back to West Berlin
until midnight. Berliners called this terminal "the Palace of Tears".
We do know why.
The "East-West Encounter Seminar" (that was the official term) still took place Whitsun 1989, like all the years before. Nobody dared, though, to hope that we could all wake up from this nightmare in the very same year.
Yet in summer
already, there was a tide of refugees via Hungary and the Czech Republic.
The situation went out of control and suddenly even "normal" people on
the other side dared to speak up.
Rainer told us that a new party "Demokratischer Aufbruch" ("Democratic Awakening") was going to be formed. Then suddenly everything happened very quickly.
On 9th of November 1989 something happened that was to go down in history: GDR, more or less "by accident", opened the border. "Nobody intends to open the wall" - this time nobody said that, but then again nobody had expected it, either.
I didn´t have the opportunity to witness GDR making another slip like that. I wasn't even in Germany at that time. I was on business in Paris.
One week later
I wrote down the following in my diary:
In 1990 Berlin suddenly offered completely new perspectives, not only in respect of taking pictures of the wall, but also those concerning Germany´s future.
But even though it was only half a year later, the euphoria of Germany's reunification had disappeared.
The atmosphere at the last East-West-Encounter meeting was disappointing as well. It was like having been stuck in an elevator with others for days and gotten to know each other better, and after the "rescue" everybody only wants to go home. "We'll meet again", they would promise, but never do it. Strange how quickly one can forget!
The East Germans
have quickly forgotten their true heroes, the civil rights activists who
spoke up already in times when they still had to make sacrifices for it.
I'm not talking about the ones who screamed out "We are the people", but
the ones who wore "Swords to Plowshares"-badges.
Instead of remembering their peace movement, the wannabe-braves celebrated themselves. Yet in 1989 the crowd (500.000 on 4th of November 1989 at the Alexanderplatz) could only have been that powerful because another brave man, Mikhail Gorbachev, had tried out new avenues in Moscow.
But the West
Germans had forgotten, too. Actually, Germany's reunification belonged
to "times past".
Probably, we had simply been separated for too much time. Whereas in 1960 the word "freedom" had been a value in itself, in 1990 many people looked at it as a synonym for money, travel, cars, video players, that is for personal infinite prosperity.
Today, after another 10 years, most of the reunited Germans are spoilt, hedonistic and selfish - incapable of even thinking about the political dimension of the word "freedom".
And no Kennedy to be seen, who urges:
"So let me ask you, as I close, to lift your eyes beyond the dangers of today, to the hopes of tomorrow, beyond the freedom merely of this city of Berlin, or your country of Germany, to the advance of freedom everywhere, beyond the wall to the day of peace with justice, beyond yourselves and ourselves to all mankind."